Demoktesis

Avatar

Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

Related Post Roulette

171 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    The difference between universal health care and actual slavery is that Republicans hate the former and make excuses for the latter.Report

  2. The one vote margin thing is a recapitulation of Xeno’s paradox; clever, appealing even, but doesn’t describe the world. I’ll plant my flag there.Report

  3. I’m musing over your conditions. They’re not bad, btw.

    That said, I think the “with reasonable assurances of compliance” part is sketchy. We have a long screed of non-compliance in the history of our particular republic. On the other hand, I will argue that overall things are better now than they were when the 3/5ths clause was still in effect. Not just different, but better (not that this excuses the current iteration of the list of non-compliance).

    So I have two questions. The first is: is it possible to ever be “not a slave”, or is it instead a case of a temporal continuum where at any given point in time we are more or less enslaved, and we strive continuously to push the bar towards “less”? The second is: are there any conditionals on the clear statement other than the ones you list here?Report

    • Avatar 62across in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

      I’d like to hear the answer to Pat’s first question as well.

      Bearing in mind your conditions and your writings here, I take it you consider yourself currently enslaved. Is the best you can hope for to be less enslaved over time?Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to 62across says:

        Am I enslaved? (By the same token — are you enslaved, and just rather happier about it?)

        There are important ways in which our safeguards have failed. They have certainly not completely failed, and part of what I take away from Nozick’s Tale of the Slave is in part that slavery exists on a continuum. There are big and little compulsions, and they are emphatically not all alike.

        Still, as Pat said, let’s push the bar toward less compulsion and more voluntarism. We usually look back at steps like that in our history with great pride, and I don’t think we often regret them.Report

        • Avatar 62across in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          I have no problem with the idea that there is a continuum of compulsions ranging from big to little. I just find hyperbolic the notion that all stations along that continuum short of some libertarian ideal constitute slavery. It’s just the opposite – slavery is far to the big compulsion side of the scale, as others here have ably argued.

          I also completely embrace the desire to push the bar toward less compulsion and toward more voluntarism. I’d only ask acknowledgement that not all compulsion comes from the state.Report

  4. Avatar NoPublic says:

    “and that no part of my labor or property will be taken from me arbitrarily”

    Good luck with that. You can’t even write a contract between two people that enforces that without external influence. And as soon as you have to figure out who provides that influence somebody’s labor or property is going to be misappropriated by someone’s definition.Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to NoPublic says:

      No, that’s what the “arbitrarily” is for. If we all agree to a framework for that “external influence”, and that framework is non-arbitrary, then everything is kosher.

      There’s nothing wrong with paying taxes to support that external influence. There *is* something wrong with having that external influence supported by capriciousness.Report

      • Avatar NoPublic in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

        I never agreed to have my taxes spent on most of the things they’re spent on. That’s how representative democratic republics work. Therefor the things they’re doing with my taxes are being capriciously and arbitrarily misappropriated. I should think that that would be an obvious downhill putt from the starting premise but perhaps I was wrong.Report

        • Avatar NoPublic in reply to NoPublic says:

          Well that was crappy grammar and spelling. I blame the allergy meds. But I hope the point is clear in any case.Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to NoPublic says:

          > Therefor the things they’re doing with my
          > taxes are being capriciously and arbitrarily
          > misappropriated.

          That presupposes that you agree that your representative is both capricious and arbitrary.

          There’s some evidence to support this thesis, but I don’t know that you can claim it just out of hand.Report

  5. Avatar Zach says:

    I’m fine with just “A guarantee that I as a person am not to be bought or sold” as my definition. It’s worked quite well forever. Starting at step 6, there’s no more master and no more slavery. It’s odd that not being someone’s property is last on your list.

    “I would further suggest that a guarantee of universal health care runs afoul of the first of my preconditions for not being a slave … because it is not authorized by the Constitution.” Fair enough, although a number of actual founders disagreed, passing the first health insurance mandate enforced by fines and funded by garnishing wages in the 5th Congress. I suppose you had a right at that time to work a different job, but you don’t have a right at the moment to work most any job without being required to pay for universal healthcare for seniors. At what point in our history do you think we crossed the line and became slaves? I can’t see what line Obamacare crosses that hasn’t been crossed before, so why’s this so pressing now?

    Also, note that the citizenry of the United States was given enough power to write actual slavery out of the Constitution.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Zach says:

      It’s odd that not being someone’s property is last on your list.

      Recall my parenthetical beef with Nozick — it seems to me, though it might not seem that way to all readers, that the demoktetic polity could always choose to sell me by a bare majority vote. I was uncertain whether including this at all would be unnecessarily contentious.Report

      • Avatar Zach in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        There’s nothing fundamentally different from #6 and what we have in America today other than ratios. There are plenty of citizens and non-citizens who are not allowed to vote for one reason or another. If 1 through 8 all imply that the one or 10,000 folks can sell you and 9 implies that you can be sold out of the country by a bare majority, then yes, all are slavery. However, once you get to #6, the 10,000 folks can decide that people will no longer be property and that anyone can petition to become one of the 10,000, you’ve established a society free of slavery — this isn’t an immutable state, but it’s good enough for me.Report

  6. Avatar rj says:

    The difference betwen universal healthcare (or taxation, or funding for NPR) and slavery is that if you want to leave this polity, you can. Unlike Cubans, you don’t need an exit visa.

    The people of the United States are here on their own accord and submit to the rules for only as long as they wish. The government can’t sell you to China, either. I don’t know why the voluntary nature of submitting to U.S. law is so hard to understand for libertarians.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to rj says:

      Exactly what I was going to say. If you can walk away, then you aren’t a slave.

      And no, “they’ll ruin your credit” or “you’ll get sued” isn’t preventing you walking away. If the recognized authories physically bar your leaving (and forcibly return you should you escape) then you’re a slave, or a prisoner.Report

      • Avatar rj in reply to DensityDuck says:

        That’s also what struck me as strained about the “barrel of a gun” talk you hear as the claim of first resort from most libertarians.

        I think that libertarians have a lot of good ideas and their impulses are right on a lot of public policy issues. However, I’m tired of reading about how we’re slaves or prisoners if we don’t buy the soup-to-nuts minarchist package.

        Besides, aren’t they always prattling on about seasteading? If, you don’t like the choices of the non-libertarian majority in your country, get a boat. Or an abandoned oil rig. Or a one-way ticket to Mogadishu.*

        * Yes, the Somalia bit is the claim of first resort against libertarianism, but hey, if they can’t help themselves, neither can I.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

        How much can you truly be said to walk away, if most or all other places are worse? And how much does it cost to leave?

        These questions are also treated in the third part of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, and I don’t think at the moment that I can greatly improve on them.Report

        • Avatar rj in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          Dang, I left my copy of Anarchy, State, and Utopia at home.

          Still, I do not see why the quality of other options has anything to do with whether you are free to go.

          I am not a slave to my employer because I couldn’t get paid as much somewhere else. I am not my girlfriend’s slave if I don’t think I could find someone I like better.

          We are a group of citizens who agree to live under a set of rules and obligations. Anyone who disagrees with our particular mix of rights and responsibilities is free to head for the exit – it’s not our business to make sure there are other countries that better fit the particular preferences of those who want to leave.

          Just because a person can’t find a country that satisfies their particular demands doesn’t mean we have to make one for them.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to rj says:

            Still, I do not see why the quality of other options has anything to do with whether you are free to go.

            Simple — if the other options don’t offer any increase in liberty, then saying “you may go to these other options” does not increase liberty.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

              Yes, it does. If you choose to stay then you are not a slave. It doesn’t matter how bad the options are. Saying “I’m a slave and all my other choices suck!” is a way of childishly blaming all your sadness on other people.

              Insisting that circumstances force you into slavery–and that the chance to choose differently is only an illusion–is a foolishly anti-intellectual method of denying responsibility for your actions. “It’s not MY fault,” you say, “I’M just a SLAVE here, all I can do is what I’m TOLD to do.” This is where Zero Tolerance policies and TSA foolishness come from; it’s people who honestly believe that they’re slaves to written policy, that their actions are dictated entirely by circumstance, and that they haven’t got any choice.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

                What if the US has a closed borders policy that deports people who try to enter illegally back to Mexico.

                Are the Mexicans then slaves because they have no real options anymore?

                Do we have an obligation to open our borders to help free people from slavery?

                Do other countries?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

                If you choose to stay then you are not a slave.

                Say you’ve got two choices:

                A: You’re a plantation slave in the Old South.
                B: You’re imprisoned at Auschwitz.

                But hey, you’ve got a choice, so quit your whining! If you choose to stay, you’re not a slave.

                Incidentally, your theory raises some embarrassing prospects in real-world history, too. The actual slaves of the Old South had much better options than Auschwitz. They could have run away.

                Obviously, they weren’t really slaves.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Group together with enough people somewhere and form your more perfect union then. Nothing is stopping you than the fact that libertarianism just isn’t that popular.

                In other words, get over it. I’m a little upset that social democracy isn’t that popular in the US, but I don’t write thousands word treatises on how that makes me a slave to the corporate-industrial complex of the US.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Oh, and another difference – if you try to run away, unlike _actual_ slaves, you won’t get beaten, raped, sold, or killed. You just might have to pay a slightly higher marginal tax rate.Report

              • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                “I’m a little upset that social democracy isn’t that popular in the US, but I don’t write thousands word treatises on how that makes me a slave to the corporate-industrial complex of the US.”

                Depends on how you look at it.

                If it’s purely a matter of popularity — that is, enough people intentionally are against “social democracy”, understanding what it is and just saying “no” to prevent it — then oh well. Hopefully you maintain the right to act on your social views in other ways with like minded people.

                However, if we revisit your comparison while viewing it as a matter of political power decoupled from any serious nod to what “the people” want — that is, the correct group of people are against “social democracy” and that’s really all that matters to block it — meanwhile you’re still paying the taxes that keep the corporate-industrial complex going…

                While I wouldn’t put it in the terms that the Pauls do (and additionally I think they’re hypocrites anyway), I’d say that the degree of actual control afforded in practice for “representative” government makes the exercise of free will within one a grey area at best (“you may move within these boundaries, and no further”), with most deciding whether this is just or not based on whether they ever bump into those boundaries.Report

              • Avatar rj in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                The idea that freedom to exit means you’re not a slave only if a better alternative society exists leads to the conclusion that the last man on earth must be a slave.

                That makes no sense.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to rj says:

                It makes no sense because you are imagining that there might be a society of one. That’s the part that doesn’t make sense.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                But that is the extreme libertarian endgame. Six billion societies of one, trading with each other, paying for their own needs, divising a conclusion to their own disputes, and protecting themselves.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                I disagree entirely.

                Unless by “society” you mean — and mean only — “someone gets to coerce someone else into doing their bidding, in some fashion.”

                When I say society, I usually mean other things besides that.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                But that is the extreme libertarian endgame. Six billion societies of one
                I’ll take caricatures for $1,000, Alex.

                OK, that’s not entirely fair. There are libertarians who believe in extreme individualism. But it’s not by any means a necessary characteristic of libertarianism, so it’s not correct to say that it’s libertarianism’s end-game. From my perspective libertarianism is about voluntary arrangements, and we can voluntarily create both intensive and extensive social structures. There’s nothing inherently un-libertarian about a commune as long as it’s not compulsory. In the libertarian paradise, there’s plenty of room for the Hutterites.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                “The actual slaves of the Old South had much better options than Auschwitz. They could have run away.”

                And if they got caught they’d be sent back, which is what I already fucking said.

                “Not if they made it to certain states in the North!” Well, yes, and you’ll recall that we had a huge war over that issue.

                “Say you’ve got two choices:

                A: You’re a plantation slave in the Old South.
                B: You’re imprisoned at Auschwitz.”

                Congratulations, you’ve invented reductio ad absurdum.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

                “The actual slaves of the Old South had much better options than Auschwitz. They could have run away.”

                And thus — by your logic — they were not slaves at all. Here’s you, moments before:

                If you choose to stay then you are not a slave. It doesn’t matter how bad the options are.

                Reductio indeed. There never has been, and never will be, any slavery at all.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                So I guess you forgot that part a whole six posts ago where I said “If the recognized authories physically bar your leaving (and forcibly return you should you escape) then you’re a slave, or a prisoner.”

                Unless you’re claiming that slaves who ran away would not be returned to their masters if caught.

                “Oh, but in the North–” yeah, didn’t I already address this objection? Yes, as a matter of fact I did.

                *****

                “I can’t leave because everywhere else sucks!” So this argument is acceptable when we’re discussing slavery, but not acceptable when we’re talking about executive compensation or workplace conditions or other employment-related issues? If “everywhere sucks” absolves you of responsibility for your choices, then it’s a perfect defense. Texas didn’t have any choice but to take Federal money because the other option was untenable.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                You could escape from Auschwitz! See?

                OK, I’m just being facetious. That is, however, one of the most impressive, inspiring, and ultimately tragic stories I’ve ever heard.Report

              • Avatar rj in reply to Chris says:

                That said, if you have to prove your point by minimizing the difference between escaping from Auschwitz and taking a taxi to the international terminal of your local airport, your argument is probably seriously flawed.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to rj says:

                Of course you are right. It’s nonsensical to say that the mere existence of some other option besides slavery — no matter how difficult to access or unpleasant it might be — instantly renders us free.Report

              • Avatar rj in reply to rj says:

                No, not the mere existence of some better option, on the other side of barbed wire, does not make us free. The existence of some other option that you are free to take without an armed goon trying to stop you makes us free.Report

  7. Avatar RTod says:

    Jason –

    Normally, I love your posts. But why is this even a subject worth talking about?

    Are you owned – actually, not metaphorically – by someone; and can they sell you to another without your previous, current or future consent? No? Then you are not a slave.

    People you don’t like having more authority than you does not make you a slave; neither does it make you a slave that the party you oppose won the last election. (Also, any leader you do not agree with is not Hitler.)

    I have a sense that this is just going to become a discussion of different people getting huffy accusing the other side of wanting to make them slaves through various policy decisions, despite the fact that everyone knows it isn’t remotely true.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to RTod says:

      Charles Schenck argued that the draft was a violation of the 13th Amendment.

      This is an interesting argument that I don’t think can be easily waved away by pointing at 1840 Mississippi.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to RTod says:

      RTod —

      If you came away from this post believing that I do think myself a slave, then either you misread it, or I was insufficiently clear. I’m not sure which was which just yet, I’m still seeing what other people think….Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Can we stipulate to vaccinating children against measles as a public good? It’s a real problem: measles is a problem in the USA and Europe.

        I’m afraid the real world intrudes on your First Demand.Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Vaccinating people who are going to frequent public spaces is a public good. The public space belongs to everybody. You don’t have a right to pollute it with your easily-vanquished disease just because you wear a tin hat on the weekends… just like you don’t have the right to piss in the reservoir or burn toxic chemicals on the other side of the fence between our properties.Report

      • Avatar RTod in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Jason – I did not think you were arguing that universal healthcare is slavery.

        It’s just… I’d argue that sometimes things merit well thought discussion – and sometimes on a 24 hour news network people say dumb ass things and they should be either quickly mocked and then ignored or just ignored period. Rand’s comment falls into the latter. My cringing at this post wasn’t that I disagree with your take, it’s this: We’re really choosing to have long thread about whether or not healthcare is slavery? Or “insert-thing-I-hate-about-what-the-other-side-supports” is slavery?

        No one here *really* thinks that ANY of the things everyone’s going to be arguing is slavery is really slavery. So why are we doing this?Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to RTod says:

          So why are we doing this?

          It’s the language of rights. If in some matter my fundamental rights were not respected, I think we would both agree that it should be okay for me to invoke the government. If it does anything legitimately, it’s in the domain of protecting fundamental rights. Even at the cost, sometimes, of some preventative coercion against would-be rights violators.

          If receiving healthcare is a fundamental right, then it’s okay for me to use the courts, and the violence they command, to obtain that healthcare.

          From whom? Are doctors violating my rights by not treating me? The very idea is nonsensical.

          Failing that, it’s the taxpayers who provide. And another little bit of coercion is added to the world.

          It’s being added needlessly, I’d argue, for two reasons. First, because I don’t see health outcomes as being likely to improve substantially, and second, because I am deeply skeptical of fundamental positive rights — rights that compel others not merely to refrain from acting, but to act in specified ways.

          There is a kinship here with slavery. Not an identity, and not even a close relation, but a relation all the same.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            Do you have the right to give someone syphilis, or through your own unwillingness to vaccinate your child, allow your own child to die of measles? Or through selling me unpasteurized milk, give me listeria or salmonella? Health care outcomes…. it’s been a while since we’ve had to quarantine people for scarlet fever, but the laws are still on the books.

            I have a fundamental right to be safe from your transmissible diseases.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

              This was an interesting discussion in the 1980’s regarding a particularly nasty virus.

              At the time, the argument that “I have a fundamental right to be safe from your transmissible diseases.” was not quite as well received as you’d think it would have been.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

              I wouldn’t argue with you on the theory, but in practice, quarantine is sometimes effective, sometimes not, and sometimes counterproductive. GWB blustered about quarantining people with swine flu (remember that?) — and yet public health authorities pointed out that quarantining people with suspected swine flu would probably create more cases of the disease, even as many other carriers roamed the country, symptom-free.

              Likewise with HIV; quarantining gay men has been a favorite policy of the extreme right, despite the very little good it would do in stopping the disease.

              And if you don’t want that raw milk cheese, I’ll happily take it from you. Philistine.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Listeria isn’t a joke. However, your entire point about health care outcomes is. Can you say “epidemic” ? The fact is, knowingly transmitting a communicable disease is a violation of my rights, a point you have avoided.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The fact is, knowingly transmitting a communicable disease is a violation of my rights, a point you have avoided.

                No, it was a point I readily agreed with you about.

                In practice, however, much depends on the specific pathogen’s behavior. Raw milk cheese is quite safe and absolutely nothing to be afraid of, provided that sanitation standards are otherwise respected. In that context, banning it doesn’t make sense.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Ever been around a dairy operation? You simply wouldn’t talk like this if you had. It’s a constant battle, keeping the operation sanitary. It’s more work than you’d imagine. Your quibbling about quarantine is madness, just madness. The state has every right to compel someone to keep his dairy clean, his milk for sale pasteurized and his cattle vaccinated.

                Look at any old graveyard before Pasteur did his pioneering work. See all those little tombstones? You don’t see them in modern graveyards. You still see them in Africa. Death was as close as the nearest milk pail. (grim laughter) The liberty to bury children of preventable diseases, nor the rights of prostitutes to transmit incurable retroviruses to their customers shall be infringed.

                The problem, as I see it, resolves to the Cheese Debate. You say raw milk is safe, and while the dairy herd is carefully tended and the lines sanitized, it might be. But it usually isn’t. In fact, in every single case, it isn’t. Listeria doesn’t care.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I’ve lived in France. Sometimes the stereotypes are true, and they really do eat a lot of cheese over there. Much of it’s raw milk cheese, especially the really good stuff.

                Now, France adores Pasteur, and the French are much more comfortable with some types of pasteurization than we are — including room-temperature UHT milk containers that keep fresh (unopened) for weeks with no refrigeration needed. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen those in the United States.

                But the French also have nothing if not good taste in food, and they laugh at us for being so squeamish about raw-milk cheese.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Look, I’ve lived in France, too, in Neuilly-sur-Seine for a year and the 14ieme of Paris for another year and been back at least every three years since. Since 1985, the French have cracked down on the sale of raw milk and force the laiteries to very strict handling criteria.

                Even so, listeria is a problem in France and right across Europe. There was an outbreak of listeriosis in 2000, scared the wits out of everyone. Personne ne rit maintenantReport

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Let’s represent my arguments on this whole dairy issue as “A, B, and C.”

                Your arguments appear to consist of “A, B, and C,” plus “Jason is wrong,” “I’ve lived in France too,” and “I’d like to strongly imply that I’ve worked at a dairy.”

                Pardon me if I find the ensemble less than compelling.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Let’s suppose, for sake of argument, my argument about the state’s role in the regulation of the sale of raw milk is more in line with reality than those who contend the microbiology is of no relevance. It was you, not me, who bravely (and condescendingly) asserted from personal experience the French find this issue laughable. They do not and passed laws to that effect.Report

              • I’ve lived in France. Sometimes the stereotypes are true, and they really do eat a lot of cheese over there. Much of it’s raw milk cheese, especially the really good stuff.

                Fortunately, France recognizes a right to universal health care. (Sorry.)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                eh bien, car nous sommes philistinsReport

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Let’s suppose, for sake of argument, my argument about the state’s role in the regulation of the sale of raw milk is more in line with reality than those who contend the microbiology is of no relevance. It was you, not me, who bravely (and condescendingly) asserted from personal experience the French find this issue laughable. They do not and passed laws to that effect.

                No, no, no. It was me, not you, who first asserted that microbiology is relevant. That’s at comment 54, repeated at comment 56.

                My theses are:

                1. Quarantine is definitely justifiable in theory. (comment 54 again)

                2. Many quarantines aren’t justifiable in practice, because the pathogens in question either can’t be quarantined effectively, or else spread even faster in quarantine. (again, comment 54)

                3. Banning raw milk cheese (as the United States does) is wrong. Strictly controlling it (as France does) is right. The French take sanitation seriously, of course, but they do not ban raw milk cheese. They’re right not to.

                These also appear to be precisely what you think — along with…

                4. Jason is wrong.

                So can you explain that last one?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Raw milk isn’t prohibited here in the USA. People routinely get around the law in Louisiana by buying fractions in a cow.

                Jason quibbles about quarantine. Jason suggests a guarantee of universal health care runs afoul of what the democratic polity is permitted to do, beyond which its actions are illegitimate.

                When I observe health care has a flip side, insofar as the public good is served by vaccinations and health and safety standards, including the prohibition on the sale of raw milk, I am told de la supériorité des Françaises and their laughter, their debonair élan des fromages. Despite a huge and newsworthy crackdown on the sale of raw milk in France in 1985 and the embarrassing German recall in 2008 for listeria contaminated cheese, it’s me (and the rest of the world, the real one where listeria actually kills people) who’s the philistine.

                Tthe state’s mandate to intervene in matters of health care policy for matters of public safety and the general welfare are plenty goddamn obvious and it goes both ways. Your ideas of liberty and freedom disturb and amuse me: they don’t survive contact with reality.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I see it’s another round of “Jason is wrong,” combined with ideas I actually and wholeheartedly support — like careful monitoring of raw milk product sanitation, as is done in France.

                Think raw milk products are legal here? Then why is it even necessary to “routinely get around the law”?

                What did you say about my arguments coming in contact with reality? Your arguments appear to have trouble when they come in contact with themselves.

                Or for that matter, with reality as well… Federal raids on raw milk co-ops are happening right now, in this country, and not happening in France.

                As I’ve said repeatedly, we’re wrong, and they’re right. Regulate for sanitation. Don’t ban.

                Honestly, this shouldn’t be so difficult to understand, and I don’t think it would be, except for your ardent desire to prove me wrong.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                No, Jason. I said, and you seem to agree, the state does have a role in health care. The vaccinations issue you didn’t touch, but the raw milk you did, with the added gracious touch of Argument from Authority, dubbing me a philistine from the goodness of your heart if not the excellence of your argument.

                I couldn’t care if you’re right or wrong. I do care about getting sick due to someone else’s carelessness. If a dairy gets shut because they’re selling raw milk, that’s really too bad, because we shut down restaurants for putting the meat above the vegetables in the refrigerator.

                The stupidest part of your argument resolves to this: raw milk requires even more regulation than pasteurized milk. So much for Libertarian Farms and their herd.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I said, and you seem to agree, the state does have a role in health care. The vaccinations issue you didn’t touch, but the raw milk you did,

                I didn’t touch the vaccinations issue because I don’t consider it terribly problematic. When it’s done well, I think libertarian theory more or less works for adults. Not for children. Also not for bacteria. It’s an explanatory model, and we should not expect it to have the characteristics of a dogma.

                As to the argument from authority, none was intended. I happened to know about the policies of another country from firsthand experience, and I mentioned them. I called you a Philistine only on the understanding that you were opposed to all raw milk products in all cases, and now that I see this not to have been the case, I happily retract it.

                This, however, I’d like you to explain, because I don’t understand it:

                The stupidest part of your argument resolves to this: raw milk requires even more regulation than pasteurized milk.

                If there is an added public health risk, there is also an added cause for regulation. No?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Philistine is what you said. It was gratuitous. I do not much like this operation y’all are running here: when it’s me getting chased around and insulted, I shall give as good as I get. You are an uncivil lot when it suits you, especially to newcomers.

                I happen to have some practical experience cleaning a milking machine. And I didn’t eat raw milk cheese in France because I have some practical awareness of its dangers, again, that business of actually handling cattle, seeing listeriosis in a petri dish and running a restaurant. I built my restaurant kitchen with stainless steel right up to the ceiling, designed it so it could be hosed down.

                Baylen Linnekin is a ninny. Keep Food Legal? Let’s worry about keeping food safe, first. Even a sushi joint isn’t as risky as raw milk. Do you have any idea how quickly a listeriosis culture develops? It’s on an ideal culture, caseins. That’s what’s suspended in the milk, turns into cheese, fed to the right organism you can get everything from Camembert to Cheddar. If it’s not pasteurized, it’s already got a certain fraction of microbes in it already. Making raw milk into cheese just adds another microbe and both will thrive during the maturation of that cheese. This guy is a dangerous idiot. Do not believe anything he says.

                France is just pissing everyone off, still trying to hold onto their raw milk operations. No sane person would consume it.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Philistine is what you said. It was gratuitous.

                I have already offered my regrets once. I offer them here again. Please don’t have the bad grace to ask for a third apology.

                I do still fail to see, however, how your personal revulsion justifies a prohibition. I don’t see more than that at work here, because raw milk cheeses cause illness only in the rarest cases. By similar standards of risk tolerance, we should prohibit crossing the street.

                And you know, I ate some pretty repulsive cheese in France once too. I blamed two entities — the manufacturer, for making a daring product, and myself, for taking the risk. I wouldn’t think of spreading the blame further than that.

                It was a banon, which as I’m sure you know from frequent personal experience is a cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves. That flies occasionally lay their eggs on said leaves is a known risk, and I took it. Subsequent banons — and there were several — were delicious and entirely inoffensive.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                For some reason, the word “futile” keeps popping into my head.Report

              • No offense, but I don’t think I’ll ever eat a banon. Not that I favor banning them 🙂Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                False equivalence. Even France has laws against jaywalking. As for banon or any other nasty concoction of that sort, the Japanese have a proverb about their predilection for the poisonous puffer fish, “You’re crazy to eat fugu, you’re crazy not to eat fugu”. Despite the licensing of fugu preparation, people still die from eating it. The Japanese eat a great many nasty things, the nastiest by far is natto, fermented soybeans, indescribably vile. All this sort of thing resolves to the old tobacco ‘n booze issue: shall we tolerate the sale of demonstrably unhealthy products. We’ll have to put up with a certain amount of this sort of thing. Python summed this up in the Crunchy Frog sketch: I think it would be more appropriate if the box bore a large red label Warning: Lark’s Vomit.

                Let us agree on this much: there’s no tidy line of demarcation between health care and public safety. You say Libertarian philosophy works pretty well for adults, not so well for children. I don’t agree, but that’s okay.

                I see public health care as a necessary function of public safety. I want everyone tested for HIV/AIDS, sure, it’s great to see so many people out there urging voluntary testing but we both know it’s still a growing problem, especially in communities which refuse to acknowledge the problem. Most states make prospective partners take a blood test for syphilis — now some states have withdrawn this requirement. I get as squeamish as you when it comes to making such a test mandatory, but damn, everyone ought to get right with their own STD testing and I wish the state would help this process along somewhat: it’s a public health issue

                Liberty is not the sovereign virtue. We are not merely free. We are free according to some definition of constraint. Insofar as freedom for thee should be freedom for me, there ought to be some mutually-defined and enforceable contract for those degrees of freedom.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                And fwiw, your apology is accepted. I was out of line, too. That which annoys us in others they find annoying in others. Pax?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Sounds good to me, and thanks.Report

          • Avatar RTod in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            Jason – I don’t even know where to start here, of for that matter if it is possible to find common ground. (I’d argue that brining the word “slavery” into this at all is designed to ensure no one does finds middle ground.) You allow that the relationship between a healthcare mandate and slavery is not really a close relationship. So why go there at all?

            If I understand your argument correctly (and I may well not) is that some people may demand health care, but that is not really a right, so to have the state step in and mandate a system that takes away peoples right to not have healthcare, and you doubt that it would work well anyway. And because this all is being approached from a viewpoint of the infringement of rights, and slavery took away some peoples rights, those two things are sort of kindred. Am I missing anything here?

            I can take your argument and replace it with almost anything: public libraries, toll booths, state-funded highway projects, social security, minimum wage, family leave, the fact that I am paid more or less than a coworker, whatever, and still show that that issue has a kinship to slavery. Which is to say that the kinship is at such a distance as to be meaningless.

            Look, I am not sure that a mandate is the answer, or that universal healthcare is, or that letting the market’s will be done is. This one of the issues I deal with for a living, and it seems wholly depressing from my company’s side – and we don’t even have to deal with the political issues. I cannot perceive of any direction we could go that isn’t going to eventually be a rude awakening for a lot of people, and have it’s set of “losers.” And Obamacare may well be the absolute, hands down, 100% worst way for our country to go when looking at the issue. But to take the concept that this direction puts you in a position where, really, when you think about it, you’re kind of a slave – or even that we should discuss to what degree are you really being treated like a slave… really? Everyone who is seriously entertaining this idea – to any degree – needs to take a big step back and get some perspective.

            Unless you’re intent is just to throw enough conversation-stopping grenades to ensure that this is a never-ending meaningless culture wars argument and no worries about solving the issue, that is.

            Or, to seriously shorten my point: if you are a US citizen in the 21st century and you think that anything happening to you due to ANY current legislation makes your situation just like that of some mid-19th century plantation slave – no, it really doesn’t.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to RTod says:


              because this all is being approached from a viewpoint of the infringement of rights, and slavery took away some peoples rights, those two things are sort of kindred. Am I missing anything here?

              Yes.

              Suppose health care is a fundamental right.

              Now suppose no doctors want to provide it.

              In that case, the government is indeed justified in forcing those doctors to work at gunpoint. Just as the government would be justified in preventing, at gunpoint, someone from interfering with your right to worship.

              I find that preposterous. Which is why I recoil at using the language of rights in the health care debate. We might find it kind, or charitable, or admirable to use tax dollars for health care. We might even be able to sweep aside concerns regarding how easy it is to be charitable with other people’s money. But we make a big mistake when we call it a right.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                I’m truly baffled. Why would a doctor not wish to provide healthcare? What are the circumstances that the government would point an actual gun at doctors heads to make them provide healthcare? I don;t even believe in the mandate and I have no idea where you’re getting any of this.

                As far as I know, the reason that providers now choose not to provide healthcare (assuming that they are able to provide what is being requested) is the lack of ability to pay by the patient. A mandate is one (not necessarily good) way to address that. If the government ensuring payment is holding a gun to the providers head, then we might as well start rounding up the insurers. They’re doing the same thing, and their not even the government.

                If the 1984 scenario you were arguing was realistic, than why don’t emergency rooms already have armed guards forcing doctors at gunpoint to treat blacks, or Jews?

                I think this is a case of not knowing when to stop using a theoretical philosophical model. You are certainly correct that you can make an academic argument that totally proves -on paper – that providing everyone with healthcare will mean that all healthcare will have to be done with a literal gun at the temple of providers who might be shot otherwise, and the also that the courts will be forced to use “violence” to make sure the sick are attended. But since that model is so detached from the real world, it needs to be put away.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to RTod says:

                The same reason that the state’s responsibility to build public highways has resulted in construction workers being forced to pour concrete at gunpoint.Report

              • Avatar D.A. Ridgely in reply to RTod says:

                Physicians were routinely conscripted to serve in the military during most major wars. Insofar as one accepts the notion that conscription is, if not slavery in its ordinarily understood sense, nonetheless sufficiently coercive to serve as a “gun to the head” example.

                On the broader topic (as I don’t intend to pepper this thread with comments elsewhere) I take libertarianism’s strongest position as being that those who would impose their will on others have not met their ethical burden to do so.

                Moreover, asserting the fact of there being a majority or even a super-majority of persons who think doing so is just hunky-dory is a political answer to an ethical question. Which is logically akin to answering why cats are almost impossible to train by showing how your dog can do tricks.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to D.A. Ridgely says:

                If i’m understanding where you going, and from what i’ve read from other libertarians, that would suggest if 90% of people want to do something it would be unethical to force the other 10% to participate or contribute. Assuming that is a correct understanding, i’ve never quite understood a few things. Is there any justification in the constitution for that belief? How does a society function when every small group or person had a veto? Is there any example of how that would work? Doesn’t that lead to a situation where virtually every single government action, even a minimal night watchman state, wouild be vetoed by somebody and therefore be impossible to enact and unethical? I know there are a lot of questions but i’ve never gotten complete, or partially, satisfactory answers from libertarians about this stuff.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                My yardstick is me.

                Would I have the right to stop you from doing X? Then “the state” would. If, however, I know that it would be wrong for me to kick down your door, point a gun at you, and take you to jail for claiming to be married to another dude… then it would be wrong to pass the law that Texas got overturned by Lawrence v. Texas.

                The other alternative is to say that, of course, The State ought to have the power to do that… it just should have the restraint (if not the sense) to avoid doing it.

                And if you are iffy about whether you’d have the right to shoot someone for doing X, maybe you shouldn’t have the state involved in having people go up to people doing X and pointing guns at them.Report

              • Avatar D.A. Ridgely in reply to greginak says:

                I doubt you’d be satisfied by my answers, either. I’m not particularly interested in whether there is any Constitutional support for this position because, again, the Constitution is a political document, not an ethical argument.

                For the rest, I hope you’ll understand why I might beg off trying to elaborate a political philosophy in a blog comments thread. That said, what I will say is that while it is true that all coercion is presumptively unethical, some minimal level of coercion in the form of a miniarchist state is a prerequisite for civil society. That doesn’t strike me as any sort of slippery slope, however, because it is only in those rare cases when only government can provide a required function that a reasonable case can be made that its coercion is, if not entirely justified, at least reasonably compensated.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to greginak says:

                The thing is, JB, it gets reduced to “the state” and/vs. “the individual,” obviating any notion of “society” as an entity.

                This is meta-, of course, but exactly what Ed. Burke was on about. I shall not box you or the “libertarian” position into anything, but it seems your vocabulary/ontology/whathaveyou completely obliterates anything outside of Law [ordered] and “rights” [liberty].

                I must use legalism, formalism, and abstraction vs. reality here pejoratively. There are more things than dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio, and no, you don’t really want your pound of flesh do you, Shylock, and Law is a lousy prism through which to view life, which is either Leo Strauss or me, I forget.

                There is a Spirit of the Laws, and it’s as grounded in reality and human nature as it is in rabbinical dissection of ethics. The letter of the law is always insufficient. You write

                The other alternative is to say that, of course, The State ought to have the power to do that… it just should have the restraint (if not the sense) to avoid doing it.

                And of course you are correct. One size does not fit all, but the Law says it must. It is wisdom, and “society,”—if such a thing even exists, Horatio—that holds the reins of mercy, of restraint. Of common damn sense. The law is a ass if it suppose otherwise.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                My problem with that, Tom, is that if we agree that the state should have the power to, oh, regulate speech say… it just needs restraint… then one day we’re all happy and thankful that we do not have to listen to 2 Live Crew records (and, additionally, we can sit secure in the knowledge that no one else listens to them either) and, a generation later, we may find ourselves surprised to be told that certain views on homosexuality are no longer suitable for public/private consumption.

                What argument can you then use? “But freedom of speech?”, you already burned that. “But my society doesn’t think that?”, no, they took a vote and society does.

                “But I should be allowed to hold the same views I held yesterday when they weren’t illegal yet?”

                If you don’t like how society evolves, perhaps you’d prefer Somalia.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to greginak says:

                JB, I’m not obviating law and rights. I’m in favor of them. 😉

                Again, Pat Moynihan: “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

                “Culture” can stand in here for that which is not law or rights. And certainly society, “culture” is not always right or just.

                Somalia is an interesting thought experiment, since neither law nor rights exist there in a meaningful way. Whatever remains is indeed “culture,” and not a very coherent one either.

                But “culture” is all they got left, and one wonders how much worse it could be without it.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to D.A. Ridgely says:

                Hey you’re back!! where have you been?Report

              • Kuznicki: Which is why I recoil at using the language of rights in the health care debate.

                Yes. Perhaps it was when FDR added to the “negative” rights [don’t tread on me] of freedom of speech and religion with a nebulous “freedom from fear” and the now-ubiquitous “freedom from want.” The latter two are of course “positive rights,” which place a claim on other people.

                We might find it kind, or charitable, or admirable to use tax dollars for health care.

                Doubled down by Harry Truman speaking of “the indignity of charity.” Hence, concepts like “welfare rights.”

                We might even be able to sweep aside concerns regarding how easy it is to be charitable with other people’s money. But we make a big mistake when we call it a right.

                Needed clarity. As a people and a nation, we may decide to accord a “freedom from want” that covers soup-to-nuts in a welfare state. But the dynamic is charity, not entitlement as a “right.” We have perverted the language of rights so thoroughly that we cannot tell the difference between natural rights and political [artificial] ones. Everything’s a “right.”

                (Political rights are not to be sneezed at, mind you. But for example, our own [amended] constitution’s right to a trial by jury is a political right, not a natural one. Courts without the jury system are not necessarily unjust. Europe is still chock full of ’em.

                That health care is a right—case in point health insurance at that—is a political assertion, not one of natural rights and certainly not self-evident.)

                (And Jason is quite right on the practical level: In essence, doctors will be conscripted into what amounts to a medical military. They will of course, have the freedom to deliver pizzas for Domino’s instead.)Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to tom van dyke says:

                “And Jason is quite right on the practical level: In essence, doctors will be conscripted into what amounts to a medical military.”

                No, no, no. Why do you keep saying this? What makes you think that if everyone is insured that doctors suddenly have lives and careers that are akin to living in the military?

                What, exactly, do people think exists with the way healthcare is practiced today, from the provider side, that is going to change?

                Seriously?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to RTod says:

                Well, actually, RTod, I don’t “keep saying this.” First time, I swear. Anywhere on the internet, to my recollection.

                Yes, doctors will be turned into agents of the state. Compensation per-service will be set, no “freedom” to “fire” disagreeable clients without a lawsuit. No different than Department of Motor Vehicle functionaries. But at least the state will make up for their malpractice insurance. As agents of the sovereign state. Mebbe.

                Of course the DMV can’t kill people, mostly.

                Perhaps in another generation or two, kids will become doctors in full knowledge that they are becoming civil servants. Decent pay, great bennies, killer retirement, and they can’t fire you no matter how many people you kill. [Think incompetent teachers here.]

                What’s not to like? Let’s do some exploratory surgery here and have a look around. Pleased to meet you , Mr. RTod. Now please breathe deeply into the mask and count to ten.

                I could tell a BlaiseP story here. I’m not a doctor, never played one on TV and haven’t even stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. But I have had occasion to get seriously into their heads. Why, I remember one surgeon who told me that…Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Sorry, Tom, I had meant “you” in a collective way.

                But I am still not getting where you are taking the “doctors become agents of the state.” I certainly don’t get the DMV example; they will not be employed by the State. It is true that they will be required to perform only certain procedures for a pre-determined price. But that IS the current system.

                The mandate system does not change the way that providers work at all. It just doesn’t. Trust me on this. Part of what we do every year is negotiate with groups of providers every last little detail about what they can and can’t do, and what we will pay them for it. And when done, they an’t waiver from it. Every “nightmare” scenario you just described above, providers already live in. By their own choice. Any doctor could opt out of the system, but no one does; they couldn’t get a customer base that could afford what they do.

                I think the problem with most of the arguments I see here from just about everybody is a pretty profound misunderstanding of the way providers work today, prior to any HRC.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Mr. van dyke:

                I agree with you pretty thoroughly on natural and political rights. Health care is only a right if there is a law saying it is – because there is a right to the protection of the laws. It’s not a right in and of itself. (But then I am a skeptic of natural rights, period. But that’s a separate conversation.)

                I also find your prediction that physicians “will” become agents of the state quite plausible. That is because they already are — in may places, but not the U.S., for example. The UK, for one. So in a sense, you are wrong: it’s not a matter of “will,” it’s a matter of “already have.”

                Unless of course you are talking about America. If that is the case, then isn’t your statement lacking an “if” clause? Is it inexorable? Why resist then? What are we doing wrong that is leading us toward this outcome? Are you referring to the conflation of natural and political rights relating to health care? I don’t see how that can be the case, since if health care became guaranteed in such a way that everyone was clear it was being done as a matter of the institution of a contingent political right to it not a natural or fundamental one, the economics would still lead to the same place (I would assert). Is this simply a statement of where ACA is leading? As i say, I can buy that as a non-crazy prediction, though I certainly think it isn’t written in stone absent repeal.

                So I wonder, if the conscription of physicians isn’t just written into the fate of developed economies as they come to feel they are entitled to their success, just what mistake it is which you think got us off on the wrong track, heading in the direction of a medical profession of public servants with no choice in the matter — an outcome that might have been avoidable if we had sufficient spinal integrity to identify and correct this mistaken path in time?Report

              • I hope RTod is satisfied with Mr. Drew’s answer to his question, I rather agree.

                I lack the necessary wonkage on this but I can say that I don’t trust that Obamacare as it stands would be—or was designed to be—a status quo that actually works. Enough liberals and Democrats let slip that this HCR is just a nose under the tent.

                If and when it fails, further gov’t, um, “social engineering” will be required to fix something that shouldn’t have been built in the first place.

                In the end, the whole country’s on Medicare, and that’s just a best-case scenario short of a complete NHS-style scheme.

                Right now, Medicare is a “free-rider,” more precisely, a discounted fare. Doctors and HMOs, etc. take a limited amount of it because the full-fare riders pay the fixed costs of salaries, bennies and infrastructure. The Medicare patients, then, are pure profit.

                But only if they represent a small enough fraction of total fares. Once everyone rides at discounted fare, the system is no longer in the black, and this is the future.

                The only remedy is what amounts to a price freeze, which translates into a wage freeze, and any notion of “market”—free or regulated or subsidized—is obliterated.

                As Mr. Drew notes, in a tantamount way or in [worst case NHS] a literal way, medical professionals become civil servants, the “market” is eliminated from the equation.

                A great doctor is no different from a bad one. [Merit pay for killing fewer than average? The head spins.]Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                If every doctor in a country went on strike, I am willing to say it would be something short of preposterous if the government took the steps that were necessary to get them to resume providing a vital service to the population. Indeed, I hope that in such a country, what would come out the other side of such a scenario, assuming a robust government existed, would be the wholesale nationalization of the medical care delivery industry, with any subsequent reprivatization being entirely subject to the legal annihilation of any right to deny service. (We do, after all, presently force doctors to provide service to those in need of emergent care regardless of their desire to to do so or lack thereof.)

                I really don’t give a crap how the word slavery or the concept of a fundamental right to health care fits into any of that, to be honest.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Correction: we do not force physicians to do so presently — my mistake. We also have never faced a nation-wide total-participation doctors’ strike.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                “Right” or “Freedom”?
                I am ‘free’ in my being to worship/or not. Neither the state nor any entity necessarily has/requires knowledge of me engaging in worship.

                If I have a ‘right’, I have a just claim to (do) something. Does every ‘right’ require the gummint to support it to the point of violence upon those who would prohibit me from enjoying that ‘right?’
                Who determines the ‘rights’ of man?Report

              • Mr. Kuzinicki,

                If your objection, at least in part, is to using the language of positive rights to describe a “right to universal health care,” is there another way to approach the issue that resolves at least this objection?

                For example, would it change matters much if a supporter of universal health care argued for universal health care as a “compassionate” public policy or as a “wise” policy goal or as something it would be great for everyone to have?

                I understand, of course, that you would have other concerns about the ACA and other approaches to arriving at “universal health care,” such as the questionable constitutionality of the mandate, the actual effectiveness of the policy, and other issues.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                Nearly so. Consider several more of the absurdities that rights-talk creates here.

                First, Haiti. Do we call its government “oppressive” or “rights-violating” — because it does not supply its citizens with health care equal to that found in the developed world? This is a very odd claim to make, isn’t it?

                Or biomedical research. If someone invents a cure for cancer, have they also invented a new right? What if the cure only works some of the time (as cancer therapies generally do)? Is it only a right for some cases, because it’s useless in others?

                Note that the freedom of the press does not run afoul of this absurdity, because the freedom of the press is a negative right — it is a right to be let alone, nothing more. It’s not stated, or not usually stated, as a claim that the government must provide you with the means to publish your own newspaper.

                If you really insist on a right to health care, I’d have to ask — why does it become a positive right, and not a negative one? And why not give everyone in the country a printing press and a broadcast TV station while we’re at it? Are these not rights?Report

              • > If you really insist on a right to health
                > care, I’d have to ask — why does it
                > become a positive right, and not a
                > negative one? And why not give
                > everyone in the country a printing
                > press and a broadcast TV station
                > while we’re at it? Are these not rights?

                I’m in agreement with you and Tom on the whole “don’t use ‘rights’ verbiage here” point.

                However, to address this particular bit: right now almost everybody in the country has a high quality printing press and a broadcast TV station in their house. It’s “the Internet”.

                While I don’t like the “rights” framing of the discussion, I don’t think it’s unreasonable, over time, to expect the government to begin to offer some things for everyone when the basic technology has progressed to the point where there isn’t much in the way of profit motives to do so. It’s better than propping up subsidized industry, right? (Maybe it’s not).

                I mean, on a previous thread (one of those tests on the what political group thread), I mentioned that I think that over time, market forces push the cost of goods to within a delta of the cost of production. Well, if we expect people to continue to produce those goods once that delta has gotten below the rate of inflation, we’re sort of screwed. Capital won’t flow into those industries, the rate of return isn’t high enough. In order for those industries to be sustained in a market model, they’d need to *degrade* to the point where it again became profitable to offer those services.

                This is why we subsidize vaccinations, to a degree. This is (in theory) why we subsidize agriculture, although government capture has led to the second turning into a cushy little cash cow for a few big companies.

                Rather than subsidize certain things, it conceivably makes sense to provide them as a government service, provided you audit them properly.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

                While I don’t like the “rights” framing of the discussion, I don’t think it’s unreasonable, over time, to expect the government to begin to offer some things for everyone when the basic technology has progressed to the point where there isn’t much in the way of profit motives to do so. It’s better than propping up subsidized industry, right? (Maybe it’s not).

                So should everyone get free food from the government? Free cars? Free clothing? These are all mature industries with low profit margins.

                over time, market forces push the cost of goods to within a delta of the cost of production. Well, if we expect people to continue to produce those goods once that delta has gotten below the rate of inflation, we’re sort of screwed. Capital won’t flow into those industries, the rate of return isn’t high enough

                You’re right that as rates of return diminish, capital flees the given industry for some better prospect. If I understand what you’re saying, however, I think you’re mistaken that normal rates of return tend toward zero.

                There are always risks and time preferences to consider. It would be nice, all other things having failed, simply to consume that investment capital. Immediate consumption also prevents the risks associated with investment opportunities.

                Having to compete with the pleasure of direct consumption means that rates of return will remain above zero on average. You’ve got to do something, on the margin, that competes with hookers and blow.Report

              • People get free food from the government already. Not just those people on food stamps, mind you, the cost of food is subsidized for everybody. Free clothing is already available through lots of different venues.

                > You’re right that as rates of return
                > diminish, capital flees the given
                > industry for some better prospect.

                Right.

                > If I understand what you’re saying,
                > however, I think you’re mistaken
                > that normal rates of return tend
                > toward zero.

                No, they will eventually be pressured below the rate of inflation (at least, here in the U.S.) In practice, today, not worldwide, since not everybody’s labor costs are in the same comparative rate window around their nominal currency, and transport costs are heavily subsidized. Even removing the transport subsidy or throwing in a gargantuan protectionist wall around an industry won’t save it in the long run, though… eventually, a *real* market *will* force the sale cost of goods close enough to the production cost of goods to be under the rate of inflation/below the market rate of return for capital (or both), and the good no longer can be produced using market forces as a driver.

                The good is actually been driven out of the framework where the market can describe accurately how you can price it – it’s like Newtonian mechanics vs. Relativity vs. QM in physics: the market is Newtonian mechanics, and it works *great* for pricing things that aren’t at relativistic speeds, or very heavy, or very, very small. This is still many things, but as technology improves and production costs go down, more and more things are getting to the boundary of the model.

                Once the price of a good is within a certain delta of its production cost, BLAM, trying to keep it in the market is actually *impossible* without intervention of some sort. We’re either subsidizing the good, or we’re giving it away for free.

                I mean, this is one reason why auto industries leave the U.S. Because the technology has matured to the point where we can produce more (cars) per unskilled worker-hour than we could before; and we can hire skilled worker-hours for less elsewhere than we can hire them here. The pressure on the margin is so high the industry must leave to survive. But that’s just a temporal symptom; in the long run, there is no place else for them to go. Human labor costs a a major cost for any industry, but eventually you get to the point where that labor cost is irreducible. Globalism is getting us there faster than we thought possible.

                The U.S. auto industry hasn’t competed on merit in the open market in thirty years! We’ve been propping this dead horse up in front of this cart for three decades now on a flood of government cheddar. Not to beat up on just the auto industry, they’re just a convenient example.

                If we regard it as a strategic necessity to have automobile manufacturing plants, then it actually makes more sense to give cars away than to bail the auto industry out every N years for N < 10.

                Retool GM to produce small cars that get 80mpg and will last 10 years, and make 2 million of 'em a year, and give them away. How much would this cost? Designing the thing would be trivial if we weren't designing 55 other competing car lines. Let's say it costs us $15k per car. Okay, so $15,000 per car times 1 million cars is… $15 billion dollars. It cost us $50 billion to bail out GM alone! Even if we built one free car and one free light truck that cost $22K to build (which seems to be a pretty big number to me, for production cost), we're still producing *free cars* that will completely replace our existing automobile fleet, lower emissions, safer than most cars on the road, and will last on average 3 times longer, for *less cost* than what we've paid in bailouts (and will have to pay again, by the way – wanna bet?)

                It wouldn't cost us as much as it costs us to bail out Ford, GM, etc., on a routine basis, and it wouldn't cost the consuming public anywhere near what they piss away on automobiles. Yes, it will reduce the choice in automobile production.

                But hey, what does *that* do? It encourages people to innovate on the things that they can still make as differentiators, which will create a whole new industry: personal transportation less the utility car/truck that most people need.

                Drawback? Of course, there's several. We'd then have an embedded auto industry and getting it to move would be a pain in the ass (but then, I'd argue that we're effectively there already in our botched-up auto industry example).

                The auto industry can't make money with the rate of return that's available on their product; not when they're a publicly held company that has to meet a profit expectation. They're done! They're toast! They've been on slow roast since 1984.Report

          • “If receiving healthcare is a fundamental right, then it’s okay for me to use the courts, and the violence they command, to obtain that healthcare.”

            And this is where I get uncomfortable. Unlike others here, I’m okay with talking about this in terms of slavery, but this (“violence”) makes me uncomfortable in the larger context of comparing the health care mandate to slavery. I understand that you actually can be jailed for not filing taxes in the US and the police have the right to use “legitimate violence” if you resist arrest. And yet, talking about the courts forcing you to pay more taxes for universal health care as the use of violence makes me somewhat uncomfortable in this context, because in terms of slavery violence was directly applied to the bodies of slaves on a fairly regular basis. And that violence was one of the pillars of the institution, even if it wasn’t used- as a slave, even if violence was neven used against you, you still had no right to defend your body from violence.

            There is a pretty important difference between saying that an individual cannot defend their own body from the direct application of violence and saying that courts can have people arrested, isn’t there? If not, why do we care about torture? I mean, why is it worse to go to Abu Ghraib than it is to go to the state prison if not for the fact that you have a right not to have your body violated by the guards at the state prison? And if, by my being taken to court and the court having me arrested, the state is using violence agaisnt me, how did they cross a line in legitimizing the use of torture?Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

                Where?

                Look, I understand that we’re talking about these things in terms of a continuum and I think it’s very enlightening to do so. Really I do. And, on an intellectual level, I don’t really have a problem with any of the places that this conversation is going.

                But still, I need the footing to oppose some things more urgently than others. Do I want to live in a country where the state can have you arrested for not filing taxes to pay for things you are opposed to? No. Do I want to live in a country where the state can have you tortured? Hell no. I worry that saying they’re same continuum undermines my argument that you being tortured is a more urgent wrong than me being forced to pay taxes. I care more that you not be tortured, frankly, and I have to be able to articulate that reasonably.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Conversely, am I saying that countries adopting the use of torture pushes the condition of imprisonment in those countries a huge step towards the condition of slavery? Yes, absolutely.

                But let me be clear here- most of these concerns I have are not really gripes about what anybody’s writing here- more worries about where the train of thought can lead… well, me, I guess.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                more worries about where the train of thought can lead

                Keep going.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

                There’s an oft-quoted Foucault line about why he was a Communist as a young man to the effect that politics are meaningless if it’s a choice between Truman’s America or Stalin’s USSR. I just don’t want to find myself ever saying anything like that.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

                L’homme occidental est devenu un animal confessant. Western man has become the animal that confesses. Foucault made much of differences between things, but pressed to take sides against the culture of denial and repression in Stalin’s USSR, he remained in the camp of deniers.

                In time, the West would quit confessing and start lying, culminating in the same absurd justifications for torture and tyranny we saw from the ivory tower Marxist-Leninists of the 50s. Le mensonge est le plus dangereux pour le menteur lui-même: il remplace la vérité et devient cru.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                Dude, I hate to be the one to point this out, but you just continue to make stuff up, and on topics that I actually care about.

                Foucault made much of differences between things, but pressed to take sides against the culture of denial and repression in Stalin’s USSR, he remained in the camp of deniers.

                Foucault left the PCF in 1953 precisely because of what was happening under Stalism. I don’t see any evidence in his actions or his writings to suggest he was a denialist. He was young, and only in the party for 3 years. After that, he was pretty objectively anti-Stalism and largely anti-Soviet socialism.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

                Foucault didn’t even begin to question Communism until Stalin’s death. Read him later in life, by 1981 he’s talking about massive self-deception: Didier Eribon

                In the early 50s, Foucault, like many others, joined the Communist party, and latterly rear-ranged this episode as an attempt at ‘Nietzchean Communism’ – a weird anarchistic hybrid. This is revealed by the facts as an elision of what seems to have been a fairly orthodox three years in the party, that ended after Foucault could no longer tolerate the criticism of homosexuality as a ‘bourgeois vice’. The experience of coercive self-deception that was a necessary feature of party membership while Stalin remained alive – group calls to condemn Picasso’s Stalin portrait as a lie, for example – were described by Foucault in 1981: ‘Being obliged to stand behind a fact that was the total opposite of credible was part of that exercise of “ego dissolu-tion,” part of the search for some way to be “oth-er.”’ Disgracefully optimistic reasoning by anyone’s standards, and the kind of thinking that makes one feel justified in simply taking the bits of Foucault’s work that seem useful, rather than bothering with its unity as a system.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                Except, Blaise, that his stated reason for leaving the party was the purge of the Jewish doctors. It’s true that it happened after Stalin’s death, his leaving that is, but that’s because information from the Soviet Union came slowly, and they only learned of the purge and its ruse after his death. That’s actually in Eribon’s book (which is excellent). If you’d read it instead of quoting a review of it you might know that! You may say that he was a Stalin denialist, but leaving the party because of Stalin’s actions pretty much makes that bullshit, or worse.

                By the way, he was never a particularly active member, nor was he a Stalinist.

                that a.) doesn’t point to denialism, and b.) contradicts Foucault’s own stated reason for leaving the party when he did: the purge of Jewish doctors, by some guy of whose actions you claim Foucault was in denial. And I say this as someone who thinks Eribon’s biography is a great read (your text, by the way, is from the review, not from Eribon’s book). One could argue that Eribon understood the reasons for Foucault’s leaving of the party in ’53 that Foucault himself would likely be reluctant to talk about, at least in ’53, but the very fact that he was quite clear that the purge was the last straw for him contradicts your assertion about his denialism.

                And recall that a.) Foucault was not a very active member, and b.) he was never a Stalinist.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

                Foucault said a great many things, many of which are self-evidently contradictory. It’s rather like wandering around in a grocery store where all the products have been mislabeled. The French Communists knew what was going on in Stalin’s Russia: many of them had already fled after Stalin’s purges of the 1920s. To say Europe was unaware of Stalin’s aims is at best self-delusion (a term Foucault himself would use) and and worst lying propaganda.

                I have not said Foucault was a Stalinist. I said he was a denier. As you say, Foucault was not a particularly active member. But then, Foucault would always stand on the sidelines. But by 1950, the entire world knew the score with Stalin. We knew the score in 1930 with the exile of Trotsky, who first went to France. It had been Trotsky who had first alerted the world to the dangers of Stalinism: after the Fourth International and Trotsky’s murder in 1940, there was no hiding from the truth.

                And there is no hiding from the truth, even now. Do not make your mendacious little excuses for what was or was not known by 1950. The French Communists, like the erstwhile Vichy regime, did its political and ethical deals with the Devil, and that much remains true, whatever else might have been said of the French Intellectuals, swine that they were, swine they remain, obsessed with the motes in others eyes, the logs in their own remain unobserved.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Well, I kind of see it as a ratchet.

                We, as a society, have decided that the following things are acceptable despite being unpleasant:

                1) Shrugworthy thing.
                2) Minorly troubling thing but, hey, it doesn’t affect anyone I know or anyone they know.
                3) Minorly troubling thing but it doesn’t affect anyone I know.
                4) Troubling thing but it doesn’t affect me or my immediate loved ones.
                5) Troubling thing that does affect me or my immediate loved ones but only in a minor way and there is agreement that the benefit exceeds the minor cost.
                6) Troubling thing that does affect me or my immediate loved ones but only in a minor way and there is argument over whether the benefit exceeds the minor cost.
                7) Troubling thing that isn’t worth the cost but can be avoided with minor effort.
                8) Troubling thing that affects me if I am unwilling to take great pains to avoid it.
                9) HOLY CRAP HOW DID WE GET HERE????

                It may not make sense to make a stink about 2s or 3s (or 1s)… but, one morning, you’re going to get dressed for the airport and take into account the fact that your shoes will be removed, you’ll have to be beltless, and someone you don’t know will be touching your crotch.

                Some folks freak out about #1s and #2s because of this. “But that’s shrugworthy! Certainly compared to *TORTURE*!” is only a good counter-argument against people who you suspect also are not outraged about #7s, #8s, and #9s. I’d say that we have consensus about those… which is why we need to discuss the #5s.

                And then keep going.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

                Right, but I’m not arguing or counter-arguing with you or Jason. I suspect that, if the three of us sat down for beers, we’d agree a lot more than we disagree about 1 through 9. And I’m certainly not saying don’t complain about anything until we get to 5.

                But there’s not consensus if by “we” you mean we as a society since, as you’ve said, we as a society have accepted a hell of a lot of things that we as three guys don’t accept. I’m not saying don’t raise a stink about 1 or 2, just that there has to be a way to do so and still raise a bigger stink about 8 and 9 because, holy crap, there’s 8 and 9! Does that make sense?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                I’m not saying don’t raise a stink about 1 or 2, just that there has to be a way to do so and still raise a bigger stink about 8 and 9 because, holy crap, there’s 8 and 9! Does that make sense?

                Oh yeah… but libertarians can be jerks about a particular thing: back in the 90’s when you could no longer smoke at the Denny’s in Boulder, I made noise about how soon they’ll be outlawing fatty foods.

                AND LOOK WHERE WE ARE NOW!!!

                So libertarians (and me specifically) see people starting to complain about, oh, the TSA and our response is to say “we hope you did not strain your back in your struggle to get to the front line, comrade!” when we ought to say something like “what is the best way to stop getting our junk touched?”Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        huh? so it’s some kind of game? see who is willing to open themselves to your ridicule for thinking that saying that you have three preconditions and then saying one of them is run afoul by a policy many think we have but you don’t say if you see what is on the books as being such? Well, I am. Yeah, I’d say RTod didn’t misread anything. Even if PPACA isn’t “a guarantee of universal health care” under your understanding of the term (and how are we to know?), the reason you gave that universal health care broke your precondition was that it is “not authorized by the Constitution.” Capitalized, meaning the one we have in our actually existing country, the U.S.-and-A. But you say you are not a slave, so apparently we don’t have a guarantee of universal health care. But wait, according to your reason, any law that is not authorized by the Constitution would run afoul. So you don’t believe any other laws on the books are similarly not authorized? That doesn’t sound like you, but I suppose I’m glad to hear it. Even I don’t feel that way, but…

        You say there are three preconditions that must be met in order for you not to be a slave. You don’t say that two or three preconditions must be breached for you to be a slave. Meaning if any is not met, you are a slave, assuming you are talking about this society, which, since you refer “the Constitution,” it is reasonable to think you are, or at least unclear. You say one of them would be breached by a policy we very well might have depending on your interpretation of current law, but you don’t offer your view on that question? …And you say you’re “waiting to see” whether you were unclear? You’re a laugh a minute, my friend.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

          Having partaken of Serious Business in the past, I would like to point out that the comments here are, indeed, Serious Business.

          (The other option was to link to a sound file of Jigsaw talking about playing a game.)Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew says:

          All I am saying is that in one respect, we have introduced a new power of government, one that is not provided for in the stated procedures of government by which we live.

          This is in no respect different from anything I’ve said in this space for well over a year.

          Beyond that, it’s an open question how much more arbitrary our government may become, or where its limits lie. I don’t think I’m a slave, but I am decreasingly confident of the assurances of compliance that my suggestions mention.

          I sincerely don’t understand why this is hard to understand.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            All *I* am saying is that you say “a guarantee of universal health care” would violate you precondition for not being a slave, when you know we have a law on the books that many people see as being just such a guarantee, and you don’t say whether you happen to see it that way yourself. And you’re not sure if you’re being unclear?

            You’re being unclear.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew says:

              A guarantee of universal health care would make me doubt the quality of the “reasonable assurances” in my condition (1).

              Other things may be at work, however. I could simply be wrong about my interpretation of the Constitution. The “clear statement” might be of a lesser degree of clarity.

              As with the rest of Nozick’s original setup, there is a lot to quibble about, and I freely admit it. If I weren’t quibbling, I would no doubt be accused of glibly dismissing the complexities of real life. I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            “Beyond that, it’s an open question how much more arbitrary our government may become, or where its limits lie.”
            Well, that seems, to me, to be the questions. I was hoping someone might address these two very serious questions.Report

            • Avatar Scott in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              Bob:

              If Barry is able to force us commoners to buy insurance their will be no limit to the gov’t s power.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Scott says:

                Exactly!
                Then where do we establish the line? If this is a usurpation, extra-constitutional power grab, where do you moderns assign the limits of the powers of gummint? Or is it ever expanding?
                And, how does one limit that power?Report

              • My $0.02? Government is ever-expanding, until it collapses, Bob. This is, I’d say, adequately supported by the historical record.

                The limitations on that power come from the citizenry (presupposing that the citizenry is empowered). Actually, even if the citizenry is not empowered, eventually the limitations on that power come from the citizenry when they rise up and start tearing down their own civilization.

                I, personally, am far less concerned with this particular extra-constitutional power grab than I am with the other three dozen or so that are going on right now. But that’s just me.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

                Pat, yes, I think you’re correct. However, it’s hard to make revolutionarys from people who receive largesse from the gummint.
                What, specifically, offends you re: ongoing gummint usurpations?Report

              • Point of fact, the three biggest critters that bug me are arguably not extra-constitutional, but their justifications are at least really damn shaky and constitutional or not, they were bad ideas. The financial bailout. The automotive industry bailout. The 6+ trillion dollars we’ve spent on maintaining our standing army in the last decade and a half, never mind war expenditures. The financial industry bailout was bipartisan, and the other two were somewhat partisan, but they all sucked (or, in the case of the military budget, continue to suck).

                Definitely extra-constitutional IMO: the NSA wiretapping program, the Patriot Act, just about everything done by the TSA in practice, extraordinary rendition. Illegal by ratified treaty: torture.

                Also big government, bipartisan things that are arguably constitutional, but clearly not working: the DMCA, our intellectual property law framework.

                All of the above is currently more important to me than the Health Care Act. Which, to be clear, I think is bad law and also likely to cause a lot of problems (fiscal and otherwise), but at the very least I see some people getting medical treatment that they would otherwise not get out of HCA, so at least it’s got some positive going for it.

                All the rest of the above is generally a pile of crap.Report

  8. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    The only problem with this demoktesis business resolves to Nozick’s imperfect definitions of slavery and employment. Doesn’t the demoktesis thought experiment begin with the slave selling himself into partial slavery? It’s absent from your essay. Not having the book, perhaps this isn’t relevant and he’s making another point. Mine is about demoktesis.

    Let us suppose everyone has an unknown yet obviously finite number of exploitable hours in his lifetime. If he has talents, his hours are worth more. If he’s sick, weak or ignorant, he will have less hours to offer, less exploitable labor or less value to add. Ancient slavery recognized these distinctions.

    In the heyday of American slavery, far worse than anything the ancient world ever devised, a slave cost the equivalent of two good horses. Though it was always bad, mechanization made things even worse for the New World slave: the cotton gin and sugar mill made it profitable to work a slave to death.

    If a slave can vote, what’s on the ballot? And who will enforce this three days a week business? Or at a larger level, the demoktesis contract itself?

    Nozick tosses notional Slavery around with facile abandon. There is a perfectly serviceable Greek word for the condition he proposes o doulos.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP says:

      And there’s a perfectly serviceable Yiddish word for UHC = slavery: mishegoss.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Heh. From an essay I wrote on the Rosedown Plantation in St. Francisville, LA

        The Turnbulls escaped Louisiana every summer, usually to Saratoga, New York. There they would enjoy the horse racing and the society balls. We don’t know why the family didn’t go to Saratoga in 1843, but in the middle of August, Mary Turnbull’s seven year old son James Daniel died of yellow fever and she buried his little body under a broken shaft of marble. His heartbroken father hired a full-time doctor and built him a home on the premises. With almost 500 people on the premises, the doctor stayed busy.

        Peter Stothard, writing of Roman slavery said our civilization is built on gas, oil, coal, and the power they generate. Rosedown, like Rome, was built on the power of the human body, kept at work by brutal discipline and constraint, with lumber cut and brick fired on the property. Let us have no fatuous Gone with the Wind illusions about Rosedown: cotton money built it and oil money rebuilt it and a few dedicated people still serve it.

        In his Philosophical Dictionary, Voltaire wrote of “Equality”

        “If this world were what it seems it should be, if man could find everywhere in it an easy subsistence, and a climate suitable to his nature, it is clear that it would be impossible for one man to enslave another. If this globe were covered with wholesome fruits; if the air, which should contribute to our life, gave us no diseases and a premature death; if man had no need of lodging and bed other than those of the buck and the deer; then the Genghis Khans and the Tamerlanes would have no servants other than their children, who would be folk honorable enough to help them in their old age. ”

        Rosedown Plantation in West Feliciana Parish once provided an easy subsistence, covered with fruits and flowers imported from all over the world by Martha Turnbull, planted in the 30 acres of gardens she carved out of the yellow loess, fertilized with guano from Peru. Yes, she did it with slaves, but there is no record of the Turnbulls abusing them. We can say from the historical record Daniel Turnbull built his slaves well-constructed houses on the plan of a proper village with a church and a social hall. He dug them a clean, covered well and the place was sanitary. He bought proper clothes and food, even musical instruments. He brought in a Baptist minister every Sunday, though many attended Grace Episcopal Church in St. Francisville. These gestures hardly atone for enslaving his fellow men. But if Daniel Turnbull lost his little son to yellow fever, he responded by bringing in a full-time doctor for his slaves, something we do not yet enjoy in these times in the Land of the Free.Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird says:

    It seems obvious to me that there are degrees to slavery (I mean, it makes little sense to say that the slaves talked about in ancient history were not “really” slaves).

    It also seems obvious that there is a point along the continuum that slavery ceases to be problematic for “us, as a society”.

    And there are points between those points where folks don’t mind being under certain circumstances (I signed up for such things when I got married to Maribou… there’s stuff that she expects from me and that I do for her that would seriously creep me out if you (dear reader who is not her) asked me to do the same for you (and get your mind out of the gutter)).

    There’s a discussion about “selling oneself into slavery” and even a discussion about “suicide” hidden in here.

    But I’ve gone off topic enough for this particular comment.Report

  10. Avatar dexter says:

    I am under the impression that after WWII America made both Germany and Japan have some form of national health insurance. It seems to me that both Japan and Germany have better results than America concerning life expectancy and infant deaths,plus they pay less. \So I want to ask why is it such a bad thing for us. I am not trying to start an argument, merely looking for perspectives.
    Also, what is the difference between nationalized health insurance that I am in favor of and H bombs that I am definitely not in favor of.
    Totally off the subject, but if you feel the need to scream, I suggest you read Ed Kain’s blog in Forbes.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to dexter says:

      Also, what is the difference between nationalized health insurance that I am in favor of and H bombs that I am definitely not in favor of.

      H bombs end.Report

      • Avatar dexter in reply to Jaybird says:

        What is the half-life of plutonium?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to dexter says:

          Before answering your question, I’d like to point out that the original question was about hydrogen bombs.

          Plutonium 238 has a half-life of about 88 years.
          Plutonium 239 has a half-life of about 24100 years.
          Plutonium 240 has a half-life of about 6500 years
          Plutonium 241 has a half-life of about 14 years.
          Plutonium 242 has a half-life of exactly 373000 years.
          Plutonium 243 has a half-life of about 80800000 years.Report

  11. Avatar Simon K says:

    I don’t remember the Tale of a Slave, but it seems like class Nozick. The argument is so elegant it makes you want to ignore the fact that its irrelevant to our actual political reality. We’re stuck somewhere between Nozick’s ideal State and his Demoktesis and have been at least since Sumer.Report

  12. 1. A clear statement, with reasonable assurances of compliance, about what the democratic polity is permitted to do, beyond which its actions are illegitimate.
    2. A clear statement, with reasonable assurances of compliance, that I as an individual retain residual rights that the polity cannot alienate from me, not even by the unanimous consent of the others.

    Despite the qualifier “reasonable,” I take these as ideal types: one ceases to be a “slave,” in part at least, to the degree that the assurances are more and more “reasonable,” by which I take it that Mr. Kuzinicki means they are reliable, or likely to be followed up on. Therefore, an absolute guarantee with absolutely reasonable assurances that the guarantee will be enforced will meant one has gone ever so far in ceasing to be a slave.

    I do think, however, the point is that no assurance will be absolutely convincing, for all time. Therefore it must be “reasonable.” But “reasonableness,” here, invokes prior practice. If the guarantees are not clearly stated and no obvious method of enforcement exists, and yet if the practices that constitute a more slave-like slavery materialize, if at all, to only a limited degree, then one is to a great extent no longer a slave.Report

  13. Avatar mac says:

    Nozick’s 3/7 tax burden as “slavery” is preposterous. If 3/7 is slavery, what about 2/7? 1/7? 1/100?

    Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
    Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course…
    Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
    Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
    Churchill: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the priceReport

  14. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Does freedom increase to the extent that the state doesn’t touch us? I keep thinking that it must be possible to untangle oneself from its embrace entirely, even while living in territories with governments. Say, for instance, if you homeschool, there’s one more freedom you’ve won from the state. The end point would be to disappear entirely. Is that still possible? I’ve known people that have done it- just hopped a train and disappeared for years at a time. If you can do that entirely, are you then completely free? I’m not asking this to be argumentative- these are questions I’ve been wondering for a while. Is disappearance a more legitimate strategy than representation? Are what Hakim Bey called “temporary autonomous zones” possible? I think they must be.Report

  15. Avatar Member548 says:

    When an outside force takes the majority of your labor and distributes back what it sees fit, you may be a slave.

    In a way, US citizens are already slaves to the state. Trading freedom for security, we are willing slaves, so you can’t really call us slaves, but I think “fools” would be an acceptable term.

    There can be no freedom with out responsibility.

    There is no free choice with out suffering the consequences of poor choices.

    We exist in a society that’s been bleeding off and tearing down the wealth of those before us allowing us an imbalanced condition where we can continue to grant people “freedoms” while also protecting them from the consequences of poor choices they make with that freedom.

    This imbalance can not continue.Report

    • Member548, you hit why one’s total tax burden should be <50%. It's not an arbitrary number, but an "existential" line in the sand.

      When an outside force takes the majority of your labor and distributes back what it sees fit, you may be a slave.

      Hayek: “But when economic power is centralized as an instrument of political power it creates a degree of dependence scarcely distinguishable from slavery. It has been well said that, in a country where the sole employer is the state, opposition means death by slow starvation.”

      He’s speaking explicitly of communism here, but the dynamic is applicable to forfeiting the majority of the fruit of one’s labor. If “slavery” is too strong or problematic, we’re still in the sharecropping or serfdom zone here.Report

      • You’ve got a point, Tom, but if you’re focusing only on the tax number and not the practical effect, you’re distorting a tad. Let’s say “serfhood” is “I’m taking enough of your money that you no longer can provide basic support for yourself and you therefore rely upon my largess for bare survival”.

        If you’re almost dead broke and you make just enough money to pay for your basic living costs, if I tax you at all you can’t pay your basic living costs*.

        If you’re making the average wage, and the cost of living* is half the average wage, I can tax you between 0 < n < 50% without cutting into serfhood.

        If you're making 10x the average wage, and the cost of living* is half the average wage, I can tax you between 0 < n < 95% before I cut you into serfhood.

        * for reasonably arguable amounts of "basic living costs"

        So while I agree with your general idea that there should be an existential line in the sand, I'm probably drawing it a lot more relatively than you are.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

          When an outside force takes the majority of your labor and distributes back what it sees fit, you may be a slave.

          You mean the state right? Because, otherwise, this is the old argument against industrial capitalism, although maybe you mean that too.Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Rufus F. says:

            Pat, I’m not using “serfhood” in terms of subsistence, but of being a “free man.”

            At a tax rate >50%, what the poor schmuck should be allowed to keep of his own produce becomes capricious above the minimum set for subsistence. This is not freedom. [Nor does taxation create wealth, it retards its creation. At some point, it’s simply not worth the bother, or as Reagan put it, why make 2 movies a year when you come out about the same by making one?]

            Rufus raises a good point about Working for the Man. However, there are far more options to change one’s company than to change his country, a difference in kind, not degree.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to tom van dyke says:

              Yeah, I’m not stumping for co-ops just yet. It’s just, if we’re defining unfreedom mainly as someone else getting the fruits of your labor, quite a few of us are unfree. I once worked it out and found about 5% of the tuition the students pay for my courses goes to me. And yet, I haven’t founded my own university yet. Or taught some seminar at the Y, which I guess is the next step between here and prostitution.Report

            • > Nor does taxation create wealth, it retards
              > its creation.

              To some degree, sure. On the other hand, lots of things retard wealth creation. Some of them actually create lots of income without creating wealth, too. Credit Default Swaps generated a ton of income, but actually destroyed wealth for the people who bought ’em. Taxation can be simultaneously retarding the creation of private sector income (by cutting down on capital), while creating wealth for somebody else. Giving a poor dude access to money/resources increases his wealth. Taking money/resources away from somebody else decreases his wealth. But $10 to the first dude doesn’t mean the same thing as $10 to the second dude. Wealth != capital != income.

              > At some point, it’s simply not worth the
              > bother, or as Reagan put it, why make
              > 2 movies a year when you come out
              > about the same by making one?

              Sure. On the other hand, if you can make as much money making one movie as you can making two, you’re removing “making money” as the sole victory condition for “making movies”. Which might actually encourage “making non-shitty movies”. Given the current state of American cinema, I wouldn’t necessarily regard this as a negative outcome.

              Not to imply that I have a thing against making money, mind you. As I’ve said before, I like me some filthy lucre. But it’s not the sole measure of wealth, per se.Report

              • Point taken, Pat. I’m not a defender of high finance except that it supplies liquidity, which I consider necessary for economic liberty.

                But we pay a damn high price for it, no doubt. Credit Default Swaps, indeed.

                As for non-shitty movies, John Ford, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara had to make Rio Grande to get to make The Quiet Man. Rod Steiger did shitty movies for high salary so he could do non-shitty movies for much less. It’s complicated.

                I think Reagan’s point still holds, since it’s more about widgets than movies.

                Your point about $10 meaning more to a poor man rather goes without saying, and there is no real objection to the safety net. But as we get into confiscatory levels of taxation, we are getting more into social engineering, where the poor man must now be middle-class. I submit again that the moral and/or political problem is not that the rich have too much, only that the poor have enough.

                Is Wi-Fi access a human right?

                😉Report

              • > It’s complicated.

                That’s something with which I think we’re both in agreement.

                > But as we get into confiscatory levels of
                > taxation, we are getting more into social
                > engineering, where the poor man must
                > now be middle-class.

                That’s a fair point. It’s also one where the Left-leaning aren’t too clear about what they mean by the “safety net”, and it’s certainly fair game to ask people to come right out and start talking about that.

                > Is Wi-Fi access a human right?

                I don’t like the “rights” talk! But no, it’s not. Now, maybe we the Robot Overlords are running all production and wi-fi access is ubiquitous and at zero (human) cost…Report

        • Avatar Member548 in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

          While specifics are fine, a broader view is better when it comes to taxation.

          At the moment government spending exceeds half of the nations output, and it really doesn’t matter who, specifically, is paying it, because we all are to some degree, even if some would like to pretend they can raise taxes on a corporation or diesel and it not be the average citizen who pays for it. Nothing is worse then a hidden tax and we are drowning in them.Report

  16. Avatar Francis says:

    Some disconnected thoughts:

    1. Words have meaning. They also have connotations. You can argue that taxation equals slavery; the relevant question, though is whether you’re promoting useful debate or whether you’re posturing (see also social security is a ponzi scheme).

    2 The best way of thinking about health care financing is a regulated utility. No, there’s no constitutional right to potable water, but the members of your community have passed a law that requires that you make a monthly payment to a private entity as condition of living there. No, you can’t opt out, any more than you can opt out of that portion of property taxes that go to schools because you don’t have kids. Part of living in a society are these collective responsibilities. You can leave. Or. because there is no affirmative Constitutional obligation for the law to be this way,you can do your damn job as a voter and elect enough people to get the law changed.

    Libertarians have the vote; American chattel slaves did not. This is a key difference.Report

    • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Francis says:

      Not a bad argument, Francis–health care as a regulated utility.

      I remember my scufflin’ days when I didn’t pay my water bill. They came and shut my water off. I went in with a crescent wrench and turned it back on. Assholes!

      Then they came back and shut it off, and put a lock on it.

      This is sort of where the analogy breaks down. Fact is, we have laws that say emergency rooms can’t turn people away, and county hospitals who treat the indigent. We have health care as a “right” de facto. Safety net. A right to charity.

      Health insurance is a different bag of bananas, but it all gets thrown into the same bag.

      Mr. Cahalan, I’m beginning to think wi-fi access is a human right afterall. We gotta get into the modern age, away from attempting to construct mnemonic devices out of stone knives and bearskins.Report

  17. Avatar WardSmith says:

    This discussion really takes me back to Thermopylae when the very western notion of “free” entered the parlance. Prior to that (and since) at their very core, governments exist to enslave citizens by one very key mechanism: Laws.

    What the list is saying (contrary to some who obtusely choose to misinterpret the words) is that LAWS are being created by the “10,000” and you have no vote in that. As for moving abroad, what would be the point if things are indeed worse (for you) over there than they are over here? If you’re a “citizen” you have certain rights and responsibilities as prescribed by “laws”, as an “alien” you are certain to have less (excepting certain classes here in America who can be counted on to support a certain political party – legal voting be damned).

    The fundamental difference between the enforced servitude of the Persians and the servitude of the Spartans was choice. At the end of the day, the Spartans were there because they chose it, not because they were driven there by whips. And so we are left with their self written epitaph:

    Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lieReport

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *